If you’re receiving various state benefits and you’re also thinking that now might be a good time to retire overseas or even go abroad and look for work, it could just be that you can relocate and still continue to receive the government benefits.

In this article we examine which state benefits are still available for British expats living abroad, and how to claim them or find out more about your personal eligibility and entitlements.

Note that everyone’s circumstances are different however, and if you are receiving any benefits or think you are entitled to, you should speak to the relevant state department to determine your eligibility before claiming.

The main government benefit that Britons living abroad can receive is of course the state pension – although some would say that this is a right and not a benefit!  If you’re already of retirement age in the UK and already in receipt of your pension, very little changes when you move abroad.  You will still receive your pension in the same way – however, depending on where you move to, your pension may be capped from your date of departure.  I.e., it will no longer rise in line with inflation.

If you have yet to reach retirement age, once you are 4 months off you should receive correspondence from the government asking you if you are ready to retire and start claiming the UK state pension – and they will also ask you for specific details of any periods when you were resident outside the UK and paying state based insurance elsewhere.

If you are even further off state pensionable age, you can get a pension forecast from HM Revenue & Customs Charities, Assets and Residence (Residency), Room BP1301, Benton Park View, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE98 1ZZ.  Or you can simply call them on 0191 203 7010.  You can then see whether you could perhaps top up your pension with voluntary National Insurance Contributions once you take your early retirement abroad.

Alternatively, if you’re a long way off receiving the state pension and are going overseas to work, find out whether you will be paying into any state based scheme in your new nation and how this affects your British state pension.

Note that, as previously mentioned, the British state pension is not index linked in all countries in the world.  If you move to commonwealth countries such as Canada and Australia your pension will not rise annually in line with inflation.  This incredibly ridiculous and unfair situation is constantly being challenged, but as yet it still stands.

If you’ve retired abroad are in receipt of the British state pension and want to know what else you can claim – what about your winter fuel or heating allowance?  This is not available to those who retire to the aforementioned Commonwealth countries such as New Zealand, Canada, Australia or even those who move to South Africa – but it may be available to you if you retire to France, Cyprus or Spain for example.  To be eligible you need to have been claiming this in the UK before you retired overseas however – and you cannot start claiming it until you reach the age of 60.  If you have forgotten to sign up and are over the age of 60, it may be possible to back date claims – and for all the information you need about this particular benefit, the address to write to is: – Winter Fuel Payment Centre, Southgate House, Cardiff Central Royal Mail, Cardiff, CF91 1ZH.  Or call 029 2042 8635.

For those a long way of retiring and putting their feet up and who are currently seeking work in the UK, there is a benefit potentially available to you for up to 3 months if you move abroad to look for a job.  The Job Seekers Allowance can still be paid to those who move within Europe, register with a local job centre and continue to actively seek employment.

And finally, if you’re based within the EU but you’re working for a British employer who pays your National Insurance Contributions in the UK and you fall ill or become pregnant, it’s possible you can remain living where you are and be in receipt of either sick pay or Statutory Maternity Benefit.  Consider contacting the Department for Work and Pensions as a first port of call, they can always redirect you if you need to speak to another department – and we would recommend you visit their website’s contact us page as it breaks down who to contact about which benefit related query you may have.